Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sacramento Bee: California cities warn of "public safety crisis"

Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

October 12, 2011
California cities warn of 'public safety crisis'

As California begins redirecting new inmates and parolees to counties this month, nine big-city mayors are asking the cash-strapped state for money to address a "brewing public safety crisis."

The mayors, including Sacramento's Kevin Johnson and Los Angeles' Antonio Villaraigosa, contend in a letter they sent Thursday to Gov. Jerry Brown that his "realignment" plan will result in higher police costs. Villaraigosa led the charge earlier last week by calling the program "political malpractice" and saying his city needed to move 150 police officers to help the probation department supervise offenders.

The mayors have asked Brown for "an immediate guaranteed funding stream for city-related realignment costs." Cities also want funding as part of a November 2012 ballot initiative being considered by the governor to enshrine realignment dollars in the state constitution, said Villaraigosa spokeswoman Sarah Sheahan.

"On behalf of millions of Californians who reside in our cities, we respectfully request your immediate attention to a brewing public safety crisis that could threaten the success of the recently-launched realignment program," the mayors' letter states. "As a result, we believe the safety of our cities could be at risk."

Brown officials question the new challenge from Villaraigosa, saying that he never raised serious concerns during the legislative process. In response to the issues he voiced, Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford said in an e-mail, "Realignment was debated by law enforcement and public safety experts for months in Sacramento. You would think that any legitimate concerns about the policy would have been raised before it was implemented."

Beyond the Los Angeles officer shift, the mayors did not specify how costs would rise for police departments. Sheahan said that reasons vary by city, but additional officers would be needed on the streets and to help with managing the new offenders under local supervision.

The mayors are apparently still stinging from a June state budget provision that shifts $130 million in vehicle taxes from cities to counties to help pay for realignment. They cite that shift as a funding loss that reduces "the availability of city resources to help ensure the success of realignment."

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